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Gabby Resch, Jaclyn Jancen, Leslie Miller


EN route is interactive learning system that lets students, when passengers on long road trips, travel popular scenic routes and learn about them by engaging with multiple layered information systems. It was inspired by a previous Knowledge Media and Design collaborator's design post from 2007. Here's a link to the idea that inspired EN route. This design idea sought to "turn a freeway into a museum of community history." Our goal is to employ the framework proposed in the previous post, but to update it and incorporate a host of new ideas and possible implementations. Starting with a seeded database of information, it promotes a community-oriented collaborative learning experience that employs the latest handheld technologies, novel interactions, and provides a platform for scaffolding emergent augmented reality implementations.

Family road trips can often be long, nerve-fraying feats of endurance for parents trying to remain calm and focused while encouraging their children to engage with learning technologies that are pedagogically valuable and, at the same time, taking their minds off of the long drive. To encourage family literacy, EN route turns a long car ride into an incubator for knowledge creation. It employs the Google Maps API as a foundation for a collaborative, crowd-sourced learning experience that can be accessed from a standalone device like a tablet or mobile phone. Selected pre-seeded routes highlight different learning focuses. For example, when traveling from Toronto to Winnipeg, a user could select from four alternatives: a geography-focused route; a biology-focused route; an American/Canadian historical and political-focused route; and, finally, a First Nations-focused route. Along each route, selected points give travelers in-depth, hyperlinked information about their selected topic. This means no more, boring, staring-out the window, and "are-we-there-yet" road trips!

EN route doesn't focus a user`s attention toward a video screen like in-vehicle DVD players do. By tying in with a device`s GPS, it provides the facility for users to visually admire the landscape around them while taking in auditory information about selected cues. In addition, all seeded layers  can be accessed online through one-way platforms like Google Maps or more interactive layered systems like Google Earth. While information layers will initially be seeded by parents, teachers, and volunteers, the functionality for turning this over to the crowd is built into the user interface, enabling travelers to contribute information as they go, and allowing them to transform from passive recipients to active participants in information gathering and knowledge creation. 

Objectives of EN route

  • To make traveling and learning fun!
  • To create an interactive and collaborative learning platform.
  • To aid in collaborative and family-oriented route selection.
  • To engage students in learning about Geography, Biology, Politics, and History.

Design Considerations

  • EN route is to be education-centred.
  • Collaborative element is crucial. 
  • Data collection will go from parent/teacher seeded to crowd-sourced.
  • Resources for future scaffolding on existing platform are to be built in at inception.

Scenarios (for both education and pleasure)

In education:

  • You are a Toronto-based geography teacher, and your students are learning about the geology of Northern Ontario. You are unable to take your students on a long field trip, so you use the EN route system to allow your students to follow the Trans-Canada Highway through Northern Ontario and learn about "the process of formation and the characteristics of the major rock types (e.g., igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic)." Part of their assignment might be to discover, through personal research, if there is information missing from the seeded route, and update the route accordingly (properly documenting any and all citations).
  • A history teacher focusing on both American and Canadian history might use the platform to help students learn about the underground railroad, the World Fairs of 1893 & 1933, or the 'Black Sox' scandal, enabling students to "analyse the historical process of change in the context of events that have transformed the United States." Students ask questions about the path of the railroad, wonder why Chicago was host to the World Fair twice, etc.
  • An English or French teacher could use EN route as a template for students to create a cultural trip:
  1. Students could build a trip that they have actually gone on during the summer holiday, highlighting points where they engaged with new languages and cultures.
  2. Students could create a trip based on a book read in class, learning about different cultural practices in Canadian and American (and even foreign) cities.
  3. Students could use the platform to trace their own family history, learning about culture and language along the way.
  • Importantly, EN route is designed so that students can share real-time trips with each other, other members of the school, and (if approved by the EN route committee) the world.

For families:

  • As parents, the summer has arrived and the family is about to embark upon a two-day road trip, but you fear the inevitable "are we there yet?" griping from the back seat. EN route not only teaches children about unique and interesting sites along the way, but it fosters an environment of inquiry, where parents and children can communicate and engage with each other around new discoveries. This system will bring the unknown and undiscovered to light for children and parents alike. Families will be encouraged to take and upload pictures, videos, and anecdotal and colloquial evidence to build the already-existing pool of available information.
  • For families who may go to the same city over several years, EN route will allow them to explore different aspect each journey - from geography, history, politics, biology (and, in the future, many more) - and will let them save and upload their own journeys to recall for future travel. This makes the same trip more interesting, allowing both children and parents to peel back new layers each year.

Conception and Implementation

EN route is a multifaceted implementation that features the following:

  1. A web application, allowing users to travel 'virtually' through Google Maps or Google Earth (which provides further layers for pictures, YouTube videos, and other interesting scaffolds).
  2. A GPS-driven, interactive automobile-located layered information system.
  3. A tablet and mobile application that allows for real-time communication and collaboration.

With each implementation, the paths that 'a person' travels might be the same but, depending on the application, various adaptations will be made available - both open source and crowd-sourced, and seeded by teachers/parents.
We have already created multiple trip layers, similar to CAA TripTiks, that will render and display in Google Maps or Google Earth. Each layer highlight different fields of learning. For example, a trip from Toronto to Winnipeg that follows the Trans-Canada highway over Lake Superior focuses on interesting geographic information nodes. A trip under the lake, through the US, focuses on history or political science. The application is both mobile-friendly, so that it can render trips in Google Earth on a smartphone, iPad (or other tablet), but is also designed to be interactive in real time. Users are able to contribute further knowledge items, beyond simply layers of text information - by uploading relevant YouTube videos or Panoramio photos, for example - while they are interacting with the application.The knowledge community that forms around inputting new information, made up of student participants we call voyageurs, can be local or international, and unbounded across age and experience levels.

See below for an illustration of highlighted routes in Google Maps.

Initial Seeded Layers - Accessible Here


Interactive Google Earth Layer - Accessible Here

Sample Tablet Application

Critical Design Issues

  • The sheer data overload could become overwhelming, and may require significant back-end support.
  • Data will need to be stored on a secure, accessible server.
  • Limiting the scope of options/route/choices may be necessary to prevent abuse.
  • Blocking malicious actors (trolls, hackers) from manipulating data and information will be crucial.

Future Scaffolding

In a world of fast-paced learning and new technologies, this application will help people regain interest in the beauty of traveling by vehicle and admiring sights and sounds in person. Furthermore, with concern for rising gas prices in mind, users will be able to plan shorter routes or be able to create routes according to their interests.

The following steps represent possible directions for this application to broaden and expand, and be malleable, as new technologies become available:

  1. The initial work of collecting data has been done by the creators of the App, but the end intention is for this application to belong to everyone. Data gathering will be turned over to the larger community.
  2. Eventually, EN route will provide two-way communication between the vehicle and the software application, taking advantage of new functionality in the Web3.0/Internet of Things paradigm, and adding an augmented reality layer to the physical space (on a window, for example) as the software senses the vehicle's location. 

Future Augmented Reality Scenarios


 Related Knowledge Media Themes

Knowledge Media Tools Employed

  • Google Earth (and the API provided by Google)
  • A collaborative MySQL-generated database.

Knowledge Communities That Can Benefit from EN route

En Route is directed at a variety of knowledge communities and social formations. First of all, it is geared toward families that travel. Second, the open-access capabilities of this application allow teachers to access interact with and create information. Thus, educators are another learning community that might be interested in using such a program to teach geography, history, social science and biology in novel, interesting, and engaging ways.

En Route can help students to 'visit' places enabling them to grasp concepts from the following Ontario curriculum documents:

The Ontario Curriculum Grade 9 and 10: Canadian and World Studies, 2005
ISBN 0-7794-7729-4 (Print)
ISBN 0-7794-7730-8 (Internet)
This publication is available on the Ministry of Education's website, at

Grade 9

Geography of Canada (CGC1D)

Purpose of course (pg. 29): This course explores Canada's distinct and changing character and the geographic systems and relationships that shape it. Students will investigate the interactions of natural and human systems within Canada, as well as Canada's economic, cultural, and environmental connections to other countries. Students will use a variety of geotechnologies and inquiry and communica- tion methods to analyse and evaluate geographic issues and present their findings.

Some Overall Expectations (pp. 30-33)

  • demonstrate an understanding of the regional diversity of Canada's natural and human systems;
  • analyse local and regional factors that affect Canada's natural and human systems;
  • explain how natural and human systems change over time and from place to place;
  • predict how current or anticipated changes in the geography of Canada will affect the country's future economic, social, and environmental well-being;
  • explain how global economic and environmental factors affect individual choices.
Grade 10

Canadian History since WWI (CHC2D)

Purpose of course (pg. 45): This course explores the local, national, and global forces that have shaped Canada's national identity from World War I to the present. Students will investigate the challenges presented by economic, social, and technological changes and explore the contributions of individuals and groups to Canadian culture and society during this period. Students will use critical-thinking and communication skills to evaluate various interpretations of the issues and events of the period and to present their own points of view.

Some Overall Expectations (pp. 46-51)

  • explain how local, national, and global influences have helped shape Canadian identity
  • analyse the development of French-English relations in Canada, with reference to key individuals, issues, and events;
  • analyse changing demographic patterns and their impact on Canadian society since 1914;
  • analyse the impact of scientific and technological developments on Canadians;
  • analyse the contributions of various social and political movements in Canada since 1914;
  • assess how individual Canadians have contributed to the development of Canada and the country's emerging sense of identity;
  • analyse how changing economic and social conditions have affected Canadians since 1914.

The grade 11 and 12 curriculum: Canadian and World Studies, 2005
ISBN 0-7794-7727-8 (Print)
ISBN 0-7794-7728-6 (Internet)
This publication is available on the Ministry of Education's website, at

Grade 11

En Route will enable students to 'follow' in the paths of different historical occurrences and discover geographical wonders of Canada.

American History (CHA3U)

Purpose of course (pg. 134): This course traces the social, economic, and political development of the United States from colonial times to the present. Students will examine issues of diversity, identity, and culture that have influenced the country's social and political formation and will consider the implications of its expansion into a global superpower. Students will use critical-thinking and communication skills to determine causal relationships, evaluate multiple perspectives, and present their own points of view.

Some Overall Expectations (pp. 135-141)

  • analyse the interactions among major groups and communities in the United States throughout its history;
  • analyse the territorial expansion of the United States;
  • analyse the historical process of change in the context of events that have transformed the United States;
  • analyse the historical process of continuity in the context of the development of American history;
  • analyse aspects of the history of the United States by using the concepts of chronology and cause and effect;
  • explain how American social and political identity has changed over time;
    *assess the influence of key individuals and groups in shaping American arts and culture;
  • analyse the forces that have influenced the development of American society;
  • analyse the forces that have influenced American economic development;
    demonstrate an understanding of the development of American political systems and structures.

The Americas: Geographic patterns and issues (CGD3M)

Purpose of course (pg. 55): This course investigates the geographic systems and patterns of the Americas, focusing on questions arising from the growing interdependence of the countries in the region. Students will examine diverse environmental, economic, and cultural factors influencing the different countries and their peoples, and the interactions among them. Students will use a variety of geotechnologies and inquiry and communication methods to investigate trends and issues and communicate their findings.

Geographic foundations: space & systems
Overall expectations (pg. 56)

  • compare the diverse human systems and cultural realms of the Americas;
  • analyse the political, economic, and social factors that contribute to disparities in economic development within the Americas.

Physical Geography: Patterns, processes and interaction (CGF3M)

Purpose of course (pg. 63) : This course examines the major patterns of physical geography and the powerful forces that affect them. Students will investigate the dynamic nature of the earth, the evolving relationship between the planet and its people, and the factors that limit our ability to predict the changes that will occur. Students will use a wide range of geotechnologies and inquiry methods to investigate the distribution and interaction of the elements of their physical environment and to communicate their findings.

Geographic foundations: Space & Systems
Overall Expectations (pg. 64)

  • explain major theories of the origin and internal structure of the earth;
  • analyse the sources and nature of energy flows through the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere;
  • explain the physical processes that create landforms, climate, soils, and vegetation.

Related Work


  • Canadian Book of the Road
  • 7 Things you should know about mapping mashups
  • Teaching with Google Earth
  • Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge Building. In Encyclopedia of Education. (2nd ed., pp. 1370-1373). New York: Macmillan Reference, USA.
    Discussion of Knowledge building through different approaches of which one is creating learning communities or guided discovery.  However, in order for these to be effective, students need to be actively engaged "within and beyond school" (p. 1371)
    Scardamalia's perspective on knowledge building - building knowledge through people coming together to contribute to an open forum of information, to create new knowledge in a social forum.
  • Culp, K.M., Honey M. & Mandinach, E. (2005). A retrospective on twenty years of education technology policy.  J. Educational Computing Research, Vol. 32(3), p. 279-307.  
    This article provides an analysis of 20 years of key policy reports addressing the challenges and opportunities in integrating technology into K-12 education in the United States.
  • Koehler, M.J. & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge.  J. Educational Computing Research, Vol. 32(2), p. 131-152.  
    The authors introduce Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) as a way of representing what teachers need to know about technology, and argue for the role of authentic design-based activities in the development of this knowledge.
  • Roshcelle, J.M. et al.  (2000).  Changing how and what children learn in school with computer-based technologies.  Children and computer technology, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall/Winter.
    Schools today face ever-increasing demands in their attempts to ensure that students are well equipped to enter the workforce and navigate a complex world. Research indicates that computer technology can help support learning, and that it is especially useful in developing the higher-order skills of critical thinking, analysis, and scientific inquiry.
  • Williams, S. (2009). The Impact of Collaborative, Scaffolded Learning in K-12 Schools: A Meta-Analysis. Los Angeles: Cisco Systems, Inc.
    "More recently, theorists have begun to think about learning as the process of developing the ability to participate in the culture and activities of a community. The emphasis is on the process (learning), in addition to the outcome (academic achievement). There is a growing recognition that knowledge cannot be separated from context; it is integral to the relationships among people and situations" (Williams, 2009, p.6).
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1 Comment

  1. This is such an awesome design idea! (smile)